Was Houston snubbed? Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

In a recent report analyzing metrics for best cities for tech hubs, Houston failed to crack the top 20 — unlike a few other Texas cities.

The new report, "The Top Tech Cities in the US: Ranking 100 Cities in 2024," by online security experts Cloudwards, examined 100 tech-reliant cities in the nation across 17 key indicators, including salaries for information technology professionals, a city's cost of living, internet quality, job opportunities and tech-related companies, and more.

Austin is the No. 7 best tech city in the nation, yet somehow not the best in Texas; The Dallas suburb of Plano outshone the capital city at No. 4, and its neighbor Frisco came in at No. 10. Houston, however, came in at No. 22.


Courtesy of: Cloudwards.net

Here's how Houston stacked up in the major categories in the study:

  • No. 13 – Cost of Living and Tech Salaries
  • No. 16 – Career and Education
  • No. 40 – Tech Community
  • No. 44 – Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • No. 53 – Internet Coverage and Quality

Austin's spot in No. 7 behind Plano's No. 4 might be surprising, but, according to the report, the Texas capitol's higher cost of living is to blame.

"Texas’s capital, Austin is a good place for startups since it’s easy to find top talent, initial capital and inexpensive office space," wrote the report's author. "However, due to the rapid rise in population (3 percent between 2021 and 2022), the cost of living has increased and access to good real estate has become more costly. Even so, the city’s distinct culture, access to educational opportunities and work-life balance continue to make Austin a popular choice for many IT professionals."

With many employers still embracing remote work, having a good wifi connection can make or break a person's ability to work from home. It seems that helped Plano get a leg up on Austin; 96 percent of Plano households have internet access, which was the single best connection rate of any city in the study. Austin didn't make the top five — but at least it didn't make the bottom five either.

Frisco also topped out in one category in particular, earning the title as "the most livable city in the U.S." according to Cloudwards.

Average salaries for IT professionals in Frisco come out to about $95,516 annually, which is only a $217 difference from Plano at $95,733. Given Austin's middling rank on the list above, no data was shared.

Central Texas didn't have much representation on the list. Although there were several North Texas suburbs, the only city near Austin was San Antonio, which came in at No. 18. It was the "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" category that brought it down, ranking No. 72.

Nationally, the cities that round out the top five most tech-savvy cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – New York City, New York
  • No. 2 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 3 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 4 – Plano, Texas
  • No. 5 – Jersey City, New Jersey

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How to navigate your hiring process with transparency amid the flexible workforce trend. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: Cultivate transparency when recruiting flexible workplace positions

guest column

How the workplace operates, especially flexible work arrangements, captivate job seekers, prompting many job listings to spotlight remote or hybrid work options. Interestingly, a significant portion of hybrid and remote workers say they would explore new job opportunities should their current employer opt out of offering remote work possibilities. These insights from Gallup underscore the paramount importance of flexible work options.

Regrettably, not every role that promotes flexible work arrangements delivers. While the labor market is fiercely competitive, especially for startups and small businesses wishing to attract top talent, some organizations are enticing potential candidates with the prospect of flexible schedules, only for these newly hired individuals to realize the actual job flexibility falls short of the initial representation.

As remote work and flexible schedules have evolved, many organizations have established sensible guidelines concerning office presence and work frequency. However, the degree of flexibility varies, and not all recruiters are forthright about these nuances during job interviews.

Candidates who find recruiters and hiring managers omitting specific details about flexible work policies often feel misled. Maintaining honesty in job descriptions – and throughout the recruitment process – is imperative to ensure a good match is found for the organization. Employers should cultivate transparency, prioritize organizational culture, and exercise thoughtful consideration of their policies.

Clarity is Key

Many prospective candidates yearn for flexible work opportunities, recognizing that some constraints may apply. A recent McKinsey survey revealed that 58 percent of Americans engage in remote work at least once a week, with 35 percent enjoying the possibility of remote work for the entire workweek. Given the wide spectrum of policies, astute job seekers acknowledge that their next employer's stance on remote work might differ from their current one.

As startups compete with larger employers for the same talent, they may be apprehensive about outlining their remote or hybrid work policies, especially if their flexibility is less generous than that of competitors. Yet, this strategy ultimately squanders time and resources, as candidates who place high value on flexibility are unlikely to take an offer that falls short of their expectations, and these perceived deceptions could tarnish the employer’s brand.

The optimal approach is to communicate policies unequivocally in the job description and address them during interviews. While excessive detail isn't necessary, job postings can concisely indicate the number of mandatory office days.

Cultivating a Cohesive Culture

Skill set and experience might align perfectly with a role, but without a compatible cultural fit, candidates might struggle. When businesses withhold key information about their flexible work policies, they undermine the trust pivotal to fostering a strong organizational culture. This approach also misrepresents the culture, which is intricately shaped by the "how" and "when" of employee work arrangements.

While it's true that candidly sharing flexible work policies could lead some candidates to self-select out of the application process due to their desire for more flexibility, the converse is equally valid. Certain candidates might prefer spending more time in a collaborative office environment and might not pursue a job that seems excessively remote-focused.

Incorporating explicit communication about flexible work policies during recruitment not only fosters understanding of these policies but also provides insight into how these policies contribute to the organizational culture. This approach aids in identifying candidates who align well with the culture, which is paramount in all stages of a company’s growth.

Evaluating the Approach

There is likely a reason why businesses withhold information about their flexible work policies. Recruiters may feel that adhering to their employer's policies could hinder their ability to attract top-tier candidates, especially if the industry standard embraces extensive flexibility. However, misrepresenting the extent of flexible work arrangements is not a viable solution. Instead, businesses should reevaluate their standards.

Each business has unique requirements, some of which necessitate a greater in-office presence. Collaborative teams or departments might benefit from face-to-face brainstorming sessions more than teams operating more independently. However, if research indicates that competing organizations offer more flexibility, businesses need to be prepared to articulate their rationale – if they have one. If they do not have a sound business reason for their position, it might be worth reevaluating their stance on it.

The crux of reevaluating flexible work policies lies in comprehending the underlying reasons for these policies and effectively communicating them to new hires and existing employees. Candidates are more likely to accept limitations on flexible work arrangements when they perceive a sound justification from their potential employer.

Embracing transparency, nurturing a strong corporate culture, and critically assessing existing policies will help organizations manage expectations surrounding flexible work arrangements, thereby attracting the right candidates for the business.

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Karen Leal is performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, a provider of human resources offering a suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

Houston's not so hot for remote workers, as it turns out. thumbor.forbes.com

Houston caught slacking in Forbes study on best cities for remote workers

WFH woes

With many companies encouraging — or commanding — that remote workers return to the office in 2023, more and more Americans are seeking employment opportunities that will give them the freedom to work from elsewhere.

Houston is (remotely) clocking in as the No. 49 best city for remote workers in 2023, according to a study by Forbes Advisor. The study examined 100 U.S. cities and metro areas, and ranked them based on the earning potential of remote workers, internet access, lifestyle amenities, worker friendliness, living costs, and more.

The Bayou City did get some points for providing a quality lifestyle, the report found. Of the cities with the best access to arts, entertainment, and dining establishments, Houston came in No. 8 — outpaced slightly by No. 4 Dallas-Fort Worth.

"Remote work saves workers time and money on commuting and office clothing, while keeping their morale and productivity levels high," the report said. "Ideally, you’d live in a place with an affordable cost of living, high earning potential, reliable internet connection, low taxes, a low unemployment rate, and various entertainment options."

Out of All of Texas, only one region makes the top 10. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas, snagged the No. 6 spot. Here's yhe top 10 U.S. metro areas for remote workers are:

  • No. 1 – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida
  • No. 2 – Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana
  • No. 3 – Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa
  • No. 4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • No. 5 – Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
  • No. 6 – San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • No. 7 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
  • No. 9 – Tuscon, Arizona
  • No. 10 – Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

Houston ranks in dead last when compared to the other Texas cities in the top 50. Behind San Antonio is Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, ranked No. 15 nationally. Austin-Round Rock ranks as the third overall best metro area in Texas for remote workers at No. 39.

Austin did great in one category — internet access — but it seems that earning potential and lifestyle amenities just couldn't keep up. for Austinites, it's all in the Wi-Fi: a remote worker's most important tool.

Austin's average internet download speed is 425.90 Megabits per second (Mbps), and when coupled with the wide variety of free Wi-Fi hotspots around the city, Austin earned No. 3 in the category for "cities with the best internet access." And we do like to take advantage of that at restaurants and bars around town.

Rounding out the ranking was El Paso at No. 46, sneaking ahead of Houston, and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission gets an honorable mention at No. 85.

The full study can be found on forbes.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A growing number of independent professionals call Houston home. Photo via Pixlr

Houston clocks in as one of the fastest-growing cities for freelancers

WFH FTW

Visitors to Memorial Park on an early weekday afternoon probably have to stop and wonder where all these people are coming from. Don’t they have work to do?

Maybe they do, but on their own schedules. Fiverr, a marketplace for connecting freelancers and new clients, released its fifth annual Freelance Economic Impact Report, ranking Houston as the tenth fastest-growing city for freelancers.

According to the report, some 144,000 workers in Houston made $6.6 billion. That means the Bayou City led Texas with around $46,000 for per capita income.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin came in as the fourth fastest-growing city for freelancers. The city's 77,262-person independent workforce earned $3.4 billion in 2021. In Dallas, which came in at No. 8, some 177, 500 workers made $7.6 billion.

Joining Houston, Austin, and Dallas in the top 10 were:

1. Orlando, Florida
2. Nashville, Tennessee
3. Miami, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Las Vegas, Nevada
7. Charlotte, North Carolina
9. Portland, Oregon

Although on the surface the report focuses on geography, it collected data that shows eight out of 10 freelancers believe they can live anywhere and work anytime. However, fewer than half reported that it was “a primary factor” in becoming freelancers, and a third said that work was “a primary influence” in their choice of location.

Most important, 70 percent of respondents said they were “highly satisfied” with working independently.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

More square footage and cost of internet are two big reasons Texas stands out. Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Texas punches in as one of best states for working from home, says study

remote possibilites

The meaning of “going to work” is swiftly changing. The Ladders career platform forecasts that one-fourth of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” Marc Cenedella, CEO of The Ladders, said in December. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”

Given the dramatic shift in what it means to go to work, some folks with remote jobs may be wondering where they should live. It turns out that Texas sits at No. 7 on a new list from personal finance website WalletHub of the best states for working from home. So, if you hold a remote job and already call Texas home, you might just want to stay put.

To identify which places are best for working from home, WalletHub compared 12 key metrics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those metrics include the cost of internet service and the size of a typical home. “Together, these metrics show how feasible working from home is in terms of cost, comfort, and safety,” WalletHub says.

Here’s how Texas fares in six categories, with a No. 1 position being best and a No. 25 position being average:

  • No. 1 for average square footage of homes.
  • No. 2 for cost of internet service.
  • No. 19 for share of potential telecommuters.
  • No. 25 for average price of electricity.
  • No. 25 for share of population working from home.
  • No. 29 for household internet access.

New Jersey grabs the No. 1 spot on the list, and Alaska ranks last.

“I believe that working from home will need to become a more viable option for many industries, regardless of the pandemic status, as we continue to see increasing fuel prices,” Sean Walker, professor of behavioral management in the College of Business and Global Affairs at the University of Tennessee at Martin, tells WalletHub.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Remote workers became a necessity in the pandemic — now it's becoming the norm. Here's how to navigate the remote hiring process. Photo by Edmond Dantès via Pexels

Houston expert: 4 questions to ask when hiring employees in other states

Guest column

A larger share of employees has found themselves working from home, or at least working remote, than ever before and many continue to do so permanently. As employers actively take steps to ensure a strong showing throughout the economic recovery, the nature of remote work has allowed employers to cast their nets far and wide in search of top-notch talent. Remote work also opened up the option for some existing employees to seize the opportunity to move to their dream locale.

Due to the nature of employment law in the U.S., remote workers spread out in varying states pose a challenge to employers – and most business owners are simply not prepared. However, by asking the right questions, employers can ensure that they are in line with cross-border rules when it comes to the challenges of having employees based in other states.

What are the payroll requirements?

When it comes to hiring remote employees in other states, it is most important to confirm that they will be properly paid. A record of compliance with state-specific payroll laws is critical in the event of a Department of Labor audit. Examples include local and state minimum wage and pay frequency requirements. Other relevant details range from overtime calculations to payroll deductions. If working with a payroll provider, employers should verify that they are set up to pay out-of-state employees.

What are the state-specific labor laws and regulations?

Another caveat of out-of-state remote employees is the requirement of local- and state-specific labor laws and regulations. Regardless of where a company is headquartered, employers are required to abide by regulations in a number of categories. A few employment regulations that may vary by location include leave – both paid and unpaid – as well as employment benefits, workers' compensation and breaks provided.

How to keep up with regulatory changes?

State-by-state employment regulations are frequently changing, and employers can be especially challenged to maintain compliance with each state's evolving labor laws. Before making a remote workforce a more permanent solution, business owners should decide between assuming the responsibility of regulatory compliance through their own research and system or delegating the role to an external partner such as an employment attorney or professional employer organization.

How to ensure the success of remote employees?

Of course, the undertaking of properly hiring remote employees in other states is only worth it if employers take steps to ensure their success. Company culture is critical to onboarding and retaining remote employees. Business owners should look beyond bookkeeping to support new hires who may be miles away from the company headquarters. Gestures such as branded swag bags and personalized video messages from teammates can make remote employees feel welcomed from afar. Virtual mentorship programs also are valuable in the development of virtual team members.

As employers further consider leveraging the remote workforce or the emerging hybrid workplace model, minimizing regulatory headaches at the onset can potentially save time and money should issues arise. By asking about payroll requirements, maintaining compliance with local and state employment regulations and preparing to preserve compliance in the future, business owners can confidently tap into the growing remote workforce with ease.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Houston investors back new platform for retail traders looking to follow financial influencers

making a splash

As anyone who witnessed the impact Gamestop's meme stock had on the country already realizes, influential investors can drive momentum within the financial sector. And one company with fresh funding from a Houston firm is betting on that exactly.

CashPool is a new mobile platform that gives everyday investors the opportunity to derive influence from the investment strategies and trades made by trusted and influential stock traders who have built substantial followings on social media platforms. By allowing retail traders the chance to join social media influencers’ various “pools” on its platform, CashPool is primed to change the way the masses acquire wealth.

This is the kind of algorithmic trading aimed at a new generation of investors that gets the attention of early-stage venture capital funds like Houston-based Ten X Labs, a pre-seed angel fund that recently invested in CashPool to help the trading platform continue its mission of transforming the investment landscape.

"We are thrilled to receive funding from Ten X Labs, as it validates our innovative approach to trading and investing," CashPool Founder and CEO Averett Barksdale says in a news release. "This investment will enable us to further enhance our platform, expand our user base and continue to revolutionize the industry. We believe that everyone should have transparent, governed access to profitable trading and investment opportunities, and through CashPool we are making that vision a reality."

Connecting the dots

CashPool is broker agnostic connector, allowing its users to keep their current brokers like Robinhood, Coinbase, Charles Schwab, Acorns, Fidelity, ETRADE, Stash, Sofi and Betterment and creates a seamless investment experience.

“We are that middle piece,” says Barksdale. “So your money stays on whatever brokerage you’ve connected to the platform, and we just execute the trades on your brokerage for you.”

Considering that users’ money remains with their original brokerage, how does CashPool monetize its platform?

“We don’t charge users to execute trades,” says Barksdale. “We charge per pool you join. So, on our platform, strategies are called pools and a user can join as many strategies as they want.”

Financial influencers set the strategies. These are profitable traders who have become influencers on various social media platforms and built-up followings comprised of people who are or are desiring to be retail traders themselves.

“There are a ton of people out there who actually are profitable traders,” says Barksdale. “Same as what we saw happen with GameStop and the whole Reddit situation. That was a financial influencer, right? It just so happens that he had a strategy that he thought would work and it turned out for a while it did work, right?

“We want to not only empower the retail trader, but empower these financial influencers who are profitable as well. Just because it's a whole marketplace out there for it. But a lot of times the retail trader doesn't quite understand who to go with. On our platform, you could see the results of these financial influencers right before your eyes on our platform. So you can see if they're profitable or not, or if someone's just on Instagram or whatever, social media platform posting screenshots but aren’t actually executing those trades.”

Increasing transparency

With trading, past success can be an arbiter for future performance, so with CashPool, users can choose to join the pools of influencers who have documented success as a trader on the platform.

“On our platform you can't hide,” says Barksdale. “We're connected to their brokerage account, so we see what trades they're making in real time. We also see their performance in real time, and we display that on the platform. That's something that you really can't get around. So if someone on Instagram says they traded this stock, then I made X amount of dollars and had this percentage of return, then you go to the platform and look at your pool and see they didn't do that and were lying the whole time, it’s literally just putting everything out there in the open. We have the kind of transparency that doesn't exist currently right now in the space.”

Broadcasting one’s successes is easy, but what about the losses?

“I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult just thinking, do people really want to show what they're doing?” says Barksdale. “But the thing that I've seen is a lot of these traders are a whole lot more competitive. And the traders who are doing it, they're constantly talking out against people who aren't actually doing it in real life.

“A lot of the traders who are actually profitable, they do live trades every day. But how do users if they should pay to get into a specific trader’s live trading session? Like, how do they know they're profitable already?

“On CashPool, users can see an actual influencer's win rate and say, 'Okay, 86 percent of the time they are profitable, and I could see how many trades they've made in total.' From that standpoint, users can make an educated decision on what pools to join and pay for.”

CashPool users can join as many pools as they see fit, but the cost of each pool’s membership may vary due to the popularity or success percentage rate of the financial influencer.

“You can join as many pools as you want, but what we suggest is you start by joining the pools of influencers that you already follow and trust, that you're already following like on Twitter or YouTube or Instagram or whatever it may be,” says Barksdale. “We are suggesting that you follow them first and you join their pools first. What we do is on the monetization side is we allow the creators on our platform who are the influencers to set their own price for their pool.”

Building a secure network

Outside of who or what to follow, information security is likely a concern for potential users. Financial influencers’ trade information is readily available (win percentages and number of trades, not dollar amounts), but users’ won’t be able to see other users’ information on the platform.

“Currently, we have a list of 10 brokerages who are on board, and then we're working to onboard more as we keep going on,” says Barksdale. “So, we have like your Interactive brokerages, and we also have a few other ones that are UK specific and Canada specific. We would love to have every single brokerage on the platform, but unfortunately, there are a couple that are still kind of playing hard to get, so to speak.”

The first rollout of CashPool is set, but version two will likely include content creation from the financial influencers.

Barksdale, who has a background in product development and experience working at companies like Charles Schwab and Fidelity, is mostly excited about the prospect of CashPool unlocking expert financial strategies for everyone, not just the financial advisors behind the closed doors of Wall Street.

“Yes, my philosophy is that financial health and financial growth should be accessible for all,” says Barksdale. “The thing that gets me is it needs to be responsible. So, for example, RobinHood is a platform that doesn't necessarily care if you are making responsible decisions, they just care that you're trading on that platform.

“Our platform is strictly focused on actually being the place where these retail traders can make responsible decisions centered around investing and trading.”

Tech companies contribute to recovery fund for those affected by Houston storm

helping hands

The past month in Houston has been marked by severe flooding and a sudden storm that left nearly a million residents without power. The Houston Disaster Alliance has established the Severe Weather and Derecho Recovery Fund to help those impacted by the weather.

“The Greater Houston Disaster Alliance was formed so that in times of crisis, there is a swift and efficient response to help those severely impacted begin the process of recovery,” said Stephen Maislin, president and CEO, Greater Houston Community Foundation. “When disaster strikes, it requires a collaborative and coordinated response from the nonprofit, for-profit, public sector, and philanthropic community to ensure the most vulnerable in our region get the help they need to start the recovery and rebuilding process.”

At least a million dollars has been donated to the fund, courtesy of $500,000 from the CenterPoint Energy Foundation and another $500,000 from Comcast. With Houston now a federally declared disaster area by President Joe Biden, impacted residents are able to apply for various grants and aid.

Those still struggling from the weather events should call the 211 Texas/United Way HELPLINE. Assistance is available for housing, utilities, food, elder assistance, and other areas. Crisis counseling is also available.

“Outside of times of disaster, we know that 14 percent of households in our region are struggling on income below the federal poverty line and 31 percent of households in our region are working hard but struggling to make ends meet. It’s these neighbors who are disproportionately impacted when disaster strikes,” said Amanda McMillian, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Houston. “This fund allows us to lift up the most vulnerable who have been impacted by recent weather events to ensure they can not only recover from the immediate crisis, but also prepare themselves for future disasters.”

The derecho storm that hit Houston on Thursday, May 16 had wind gusts up to 100mph. Nearly a million people in the Houston area were left without power, and as of Wednesday CenterPoint was still working to restore electricity to more than 60,000 people. Photos showed that the storm toppled massive power pylons, took down trees, and even ripped the sides off buildings. Miniature tornadoes touched down in parts of the city, adding to the devastation.

The Houston Disaster Alliance was launched in 2023 as a joint effort between the Greater Houston Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston to help mitigate the damage of weather crises year-round. This has become increasingly necessary as Houston's weather has become more unpredictable than ever.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.